Installing a Decorative Rail Down a Staircase

Learn how to install chair-rail style molding in a stairwell.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing the Rail in a Room

First, install the chair rail in the room adjacent to the stairwell. Draw a level guide line around the room at the height where you want the lower edge of the rail—often 3 feet (1 m) from floor level.

Attaching the Rail in a Room

Position the rail along the line and nail through its center (into uprights of a stud wall; plugging as required in masonry). Drive nails in fully.

Adjusting the Rail for a Stairwell

To determine where the rail must change direction, hold a level upright where the baseboard meets the stairwell. Make a vertical mark where level bisects the horizontal guide line.

Measuring and Marking for a Stairwell

Hold a length of rail along the original guide line. Draw a line along the rail’s top edge, reaching at least as far as the vertical mark. The original line is at the base of the chair rail.

Measuring and Marking for a Stairwell

Higher up the staircase, make a mark the same height above the stair string as the original guide line is above the baseboard. Mark distance between rail and baseboard.

Create a Guide Line in the Stairwell

Join this mark to the one at the foot of the stairway to provide a guide line in the stairwell for the lower edge of the rail.

Position the Rail in the Stairwell

Position a length of rail on this guide line. Draw along its top edge, joining and intersecting with the horizontal line.

Mark the Rail for the Stairwell

Now that clear guide lines are on the wall, position a length of rail and mark off on either edge to provide the correct angle for mitering the joint.

Cut and Attach the Rail in the Stairwell

Cut the stairwell rail at the marked angle. Then repeat the process with a horizontal piece of rail to miter that length. Position the lengths, checking that they fit tightly together. Nail them to the wall. Use this technique each time a rail needs to change direction.